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Funeral held for Linda McCartney

Linda McCartney April 20, 1998
Web posted at: 11:28 a.m. EDT (1528 GMT)

(CNN) -- Linda McCartney, the wife and creative partner of former Beatle Paul McCartney, has died of cancer. She was 56.

Linda McCartney died at 5:04 a.m. PDT Friday with her husband and children at her side while on vacation in Santa Barbara, California.

Her funeral has already been held, Paul McCartney's spokesman said Monday.

The spokesman gave no details, but the Evening Standard newspaper in London reported that the former Beatle and the couple's children returned to their home near Rye, on the Sussex coast, Sunday night following a private cremation ceremony near their holiday home in Santa Barbara.

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CNN's Mark Scheerer reviews the life of Linda McCartney

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"The blessing was that the end came quickly and she didn't suffer," the statement said. Two days before her death, Linda and Paul had been horseback riding, one of her main passions, said her publicist, Geoff Baker.

The couple announced that Linda McCartney had breast cancer in December 1995. She was undergoing treatment that seemed to be working well, but in March the cancer was found to have spread to her liver, the statement said.

Sir Paul, 55, will issue a statement later in the week and is currently with his children, Baker said.

"The coming days are going to be very difficult for Paul. People may not realize that with the exception of one occasion, Paul and Linda never spent a night apart in the 30 years that they have loved one another," Baker said, adding that he was asking the media and public to give the family some "time and space alone."

Instead of sending flowers, the statement said people should give a donation to charities involved in cancer research or animal welfare, "or -- best of all -- the tribute that Linda herself would like best: Go veggie." Linda McCartney was a longtime vegetarian who had her own line of meatless meals.

An enduring marriage

When she met her future husband in 1967, she had already received critical acclaim for her moody, gritty photographs. She married Beatle Paul in 1969, breaking a generation of young girls' hearts.

The couple formed one of the most enduring marriages in the entertainment industry. She photographed her husband and made music with him, and together they campaigned for various causes.

They had three children, Mary, 27, Stella, 25, and James, 19. She also had a child, Heather, from a first marriage to geophysicist John Melvyn See. The McCartneys avoided the spotlight, raising their family in remote homes in southern England and Scotland.

She was outspoken in support of several causes, including environmentalism and animal rights.

"Linda was always upbeat about our work against cruelty, and we'll fight harder in her name," said Dan Mathews, a campaign director with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. "Linda understood the power of the fork and converted many people to vegetarianism both at home and on tour."

Yoko Ono, the widow of Beatle John Lennon, said she was deeply saddened by the news of McCartney's death. "She's in a state of shock," said Elliot Mintz, Ono's publicist. "She spoke to Linda within the past year and Linda sounded her usual, powerful self to Yoko."

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, traveling in Israel when the death was announced, said in a statement that he and his wife, Cherie, were saddened by the news.

"Linda showed extraordinary courage throughout her illness," Blair said. "She made a tremendous contribution across a whole range of British life."

'The most positive person on earth'

Born Linda Eastman in 1941, she grew up in Scarsdale, New York. Her father, Lee Eastman, was a lawyer, and her mother died in a plane crash when she was 19.

An art history major at the University of Arizona, she moved to New York City at 21, working as a receptionist at Town and Country magazine.

A lucky break gave her the opportunity to photograph the Rolling Stones, which led to other photo shoots with rock groups.

During a trip to London, she met Paul McCartney at the launch of the Beatles' "Sergeant Pepper" album.

After the Beatles' breakup, she joined her husband's new band, Wings, in 1972 and was ridiculed for her lack of musicality. The band, however, had hits with the album "Band on the Run," and one of the world's biggest selling singles with "Mull of Kintyre" in 1977.

Her photographs were showed in some 50 galleries, including the prestigious Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

The McCartneys were fined for possessing marijuana in 1972, and in a 1984 incident, both admitted carrying the drug.

Last year, she became Lady Linda when her husband was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II.

In an interview before his wife's death, McCartney called his wife "the most positive person on earth" in her fight against cancer.

Asked about the endurance of their marriage, McCartney said, "I guess it's because we just adore each other."

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

 
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